Monthly Archives: December 2008
It seems to be traditional for bloggers to review their year, and I hate to fly in the face of tradition — besides, I’ve never done this before so it might be interesting.
I started out 2008 playing Star Wars: Galaxies. No, really. I’d gone back to it after finally getting tired of Vanguard, mostly because I wanted to craft, nothing else out there appealed (especially on the crafting side), and SWG had recently brought in Beast Mastery which was supposed to bring all the old Creature Handlers galloping back. The crafting hadn’t changed much, but its place in the game had; even in a galaxy far, far away, loot is busy taking over the roost. What I liked about SWG years ago is apprently not something most advenurers like (or so we’re told?) — a 100% player-created economy. Back when SWG started, there was no loot to speak of: if you wanted food, weapons, armour, a house — you bought something that had been made by another player, or made it yourself. I liked that, and it’s one of the few ways a crafting-heavy game can actually have meaningful crafting. Well, crafting isn’t meaningful in SWG anymore because nothing decays and loot is better anyway, and the harvesting side of it can quickly become a job just like it did last time.
As for Beast Mastery — it’s not creature handling. I had a bit of fun (and a lot of frustration) making pets and getting the odd mutant; then I discovered you have to sell your soul to the grind gods to level just ONE pet, never mind several… in a game where characters now level so fast you’ll miss it f you sneeze. In the midst of all this it became officially okay to “play” afk — an oxymoron if ever I heard one, and pernicious; I swear it became more obvious that game elements were being designed with AFK-“play” in mind. That seems both extremely silly and extremely dangerous to me. Offline activities, like EVE, sure. Sideline activities, sure… but a game that’s actively designed around the fact that its players aren’t actually at the keyboard for many activities? That’s just wrong.
Just as I was starting to get a little tired of SWG, the Warhammer Beta invite came rolling in, sometime at the end of June or the beginning of July. Just one, because I’d signed up years ago (literally) and the spousal unit hadn’t, so that caused a little spouse-aggro but hey, if ya don’t sign up ya won’t get picked! Anyway, some of my characters were suspiciously male, and not just so I could attend stonings. As anyone who knows me knows, I never make male characters — for one thing I’m horribly sexist, for another I usually don’t like the male models, and finally I’m a one-woman redresser of the gender balance in RPGs and MMOs — which is why I have so many alts, see? It’s a public service really.
The beta was a blast. Betas usually are, for me, because I like to be testing and breaking stuff and I like the mentality of the other players who are there to test and break too — as for the freebie game-triers, I just ignore them. (Even worse are the people who get into a beta just, apparently, so they can say “My game MegaPwnCity is WAY better that this piece of crap! Really! What are you all doing here?!” — do they get paid for spouting that kind of stuuff in an environment where, pardon my language, absolutely nobody gives a shit? Weird. Annnyway…)
I’ve seen this question asked a lot over the last few weeks: why was WAR beta more fun than WAR live? It’s not a fair question, especially with the heavily directed beta phases we had (at least the ones I saw), and especially because most people’s expectations in beta are not at all the same as their expectations of a live game. Fair or not though, it’s a fact that in many ways WAR was more fun in beta than it turned out to be in live.
To me its greatest flaw is the lack of fluff, something which isn’t likely to change. We’re at WAR, moron! Hell, even the NPCs constantly bang on about it — “Shouldn’t you be fighting?” — “Do I look busy to you?” (um no, you look like a vendor, which is why I’m here — or um no, you’re standing around like a scarecrow waiting for me to turn my quest in so no, you don’t look busy). WAR is too grim and too, well, at war to have any fluff. I get that. However, I like fluff. I love fluff. I don’t want The Longest Day all day every day in my gaming, and that’s what Warhammer feels like to me now.
Personal preferences in the fluff department aside, bugs and other growing pains aside, Warhammer Online is a solid game and will, I think, mature into something its core players are happy to keep playing for a long time. I say this with a little trepidation, because I’m not sure yet what will happen on servers when most of the population is 40 and they’ve done the same back and forth across the same zones for the 17,000th time — but since the human element in RvR might change things up a little, maybe it won’t get too stale too quickly.
Regardless of whether I’m enjoying WAR now or not, it was a lot of fun in beta and led to the creation of Casualties of WAR, which is likely to be one of my two long-term tribal groupings (along with The Knights Who Say Ni). It’s time to change how we view social groupings in and around our gaming, but I’m going to save that for another post (no really, a post I’m going to write, not a post I’m going to joke about writing). Those Casualties fools talked me into blogging — something I’d been half-heartedly doing on LiveJournal for years, mostly as a means to keep in tough with my trans-Pondian UK mates — and you know how that turned out. I also ended up writing a brief but fun column for Hammer of WAR Online — a site, like many others, that peaked and waned much too quickly thanks to WAR’s weird launch madness and post-launch apathy.
Autumn came and my thoughts turned from WAR to fluffier things, like Wizard 101, thanks largely to the reviews Hudson and Tipa did. I didn’t end up playing it for more than a few weeks, but I didn’t really expect to, at least not full-time, and it served its purpose: it cheered me up after my growing irritation with WAR (undyeable cloaks, conehead hats, zoning issues — you know, the important stuff). It’s a fun little game and has proved useful, because the kids are looking for something their kids — growing like weeds, smarter than I ever was, techno-geek-grrrls in the making — can safely play online. Wizard 101 certainly fits that, even if the first thing anyone ever said to me in that game was some guy being really creepy (I mean seriously — does anyone say “Hello pretty” in an non-creepy way? I don’t think so Tim!)
Then came the beta invite for that Game I Test I Can’t Name (GITICN — I need a catchier acronym). It’s actually not quite in beta yet and that’s all I can say without having to kill you after, so read on at your own peril. It’s fun, but it’s a very very early beta (aka alpha), and anyone who’s been involved in one of those will know what that means in terms of stability, systems consistency (yesterday you scratched your nose — today you pick it! — tomorrow, no nose at all!), and character wipes. It’s all part of the process but the smart tester knows when they’ve had enough of testing for a while, for whatever reason. If you get peeved with crashing, or whatever else pisses you off, stop testing for a while — it does neither you nor the game any favours to be testing while angry. So, I backed off.
A month after W101, during which I thought about logging in to WAR but mostly didn’t bother — a month during which they brought out some very helpful performance and bug-bashing patches — and during which I also had surgery that turned out to be about 100 times more painful than I ever expected it to be and lasted more than the 3 days I optimistically thought I’d be out of commission, I followed a Saturday-morning whim and typed “Warcraft free trial” into Google. A day later I was downloading the full version and trying to remember my old account name and password.
It being a whim, I really thought World of Warcraft only had a very slight chance of recapturing my interest. I expected a lot of “been there, done that” fatigue and not a lot of newness, since Azeroth doesn’t appear to have changed all that much since I stopped playing in Spring 2005. As it turns out, this was a good time to go back and try things out; they’ve made significant changes to my favourite class (Huntard… sorry, but I love em) and oh, you know, added a few other things. (I’m sure the fact that there are 126 Dread Knights for every single other class out there right now will eventually balance out.)
Right now I’m experiencing the old-yet-new feeling you get when going back to a game, like I got in SWG, and it’s enjoyable. When that fades, I’ll have to see whether there’s enough to keep me playing, and since ultra-casual interest seems to last about a month, we’ll find out here in a week or so whether WoW will keep me for a while. (I wonder if a game is like a habit — if you play it for 3 weeks, you’re more likely to keep playing?)
Looking at all this, I guess most of the “big” MMO releases of 2008 passed me by. I didn’t have the cash to try Age of Conan at release, but since a lot of Ni friends were trying it out I just waited to hear what they had to say about it — which, resoundingly, was “Nice touches, but don’t bother,” so I didn’t. Tabula Rasa never really caught my interest, and neither did Hellgate: London. If there was another big MMO release I’ve not mentioned, either it wasn’t that big or my bad memory is going strong.
I’ve not really been as flighty as I thought, though that’s more down to not finding games I wanted to try, I think. 2008 continued a trend that started several years ago, where I keep thinking I’ve found The One game, only to discover it’s not. Thank god there’s no alimony for broken game relationships. In 2008, however, I think I started revising my expectations of why I play games and what I want from them, and “the One” isn’t necessarily it anymore. If I can have a series of casual relationships that are fun but don’t involve getting a mortgage and having e-kids, I think I can handle that. To be honest, it’s about all I have time for — and even when I do have time, what I want is FUN. Easy, uncomplicated, not looking at what I’ll be doing here in 3 years fun, just log-in-and-have-at-it fun. Okay, I think I’ve tortured that metaphor enough.
I’m not much of one for new year’s resolutions, mainly because I never stick to them, but I will make this one: in 2009, I won’t make my blog posts any shorter. I’m constitutionally incapable of using 2 words where 12 will do, and oddly enough you guys seem to prefer the longer posts — besides, even if nobody read them, I enjoy writing them.
Happy New Year all. May 2009 find you healthy, happy and prosperous. And if you win the lottery, think of me.
Why do we play Game A instead of Game B? Why do we spend months obsessing about Game C, but when it comes out we play it for less than 3 months and move on? Why do we move on in the first place?
Weighty questions, but I’ll tell you one answer it mostly isn’t, for me — I don’t play game A instead of B because B is crap. I play one game over another because at any given point in time, one game appeals to me more than another. It really has very little to do, in most cases, with the overall quality of the game itself, and despite what some bloggers and other pundits would have you believe, it mostly isn’t an objective valuation.
It’s the worst kind of self-centredness, in my oh-so-humble opinion, to think that my not liking a thing makes that thing crap, be it chocolate ice-cream, blue scarves, or InsertNameMMO. Which is my roundabout way of saying: I’m not playing Warhammer Online right now, but that doesn’t make it crap.
I’ve been thinking about why Warcraft is more fun for me right now than Warhammer, and it comes down to a few core reasons.
As I noted previously, this isn’t something that I’m usually very intolerant about, but after half a year of playing various betas, which are usually questionable in terms of stability and performance, it seems I want a game that’s steady. WoW is steady, uses about half the memory that WAR does, and gives me consistent 30+ framerates. Crashing a lot is an obvious irritant, but general graphics performance is important too; when stuff hitches sll the time, as WAR did for me (though I’ll admit, the last few patches have gone a long, long way towards improving that), I’ll eventually get irritated enough that I don’t really want to experience it anymore.
Another small but important difference is loading screens/bars/whatever you call them. When I log in to WoW, it takes maybe 15 seconds, same when I need to zone somewhere, like from Kalimdor to the Eastern Kingdoms. In Warhammer, loading in takes me almost two minutes. Zoning to Altdorf takes over a minute. Flying somewhere and loading that… you get the idea. It may sound minor, but added over a bunch of playsessions, it just wears on me. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m noticing the loading screens, they’re too long. It’s one of the main reasons I haven’t bothered getting a console since we passed our PS2 down to the kids & grand-kids, because as far as I can tell, every console RPG is 20% playing and 80% loading screens.
Now that I’ve played WoW as well as WAR, I can see what everyone was talking about when they mention combat responsiveness. Take just my hunter, for instance: when I fire an arrow, it zips (even if it also occasionally zigs in physics-defying ways). It doesn’t lazily arc 200′ into the air before lazily arcing down to the target, who by that time may be right in my face. When I hit a button, something happens right away. The animations are smoother, shorter, more consistent. Spell effects don’t stay stuck on my avatar for the rest of my gaming session. And so on. Those things are mostly in the “growing pains” category though, and they’re being worked on. Given that WAR is graphically more complex than WOW it may take a while, but I’m certain that organically responsive feel is something Mythic is striving for, because every gamer notices it — including them.
In Warhammer, I still feel as though I should be levelling, even if it’s at my own pace. In Warcraft, because I’ve been around the block before, I actually feel no compelling need to do any one thing above another. If I want to run around exploring areas I haven’t seen in almost 4 years, I can do that. If I want to travel to BFE to get a particular pet I want (and no, it’s not necessarily MegaElitePetofDoom), I can do that. If I want to fish for 2 hours, all I need to worry about is where, and is my skill high enough.
While there’s nothing in Warhammer that tells me I should do one thing instead of another, my own expectations frame what I’m aiming to do when I log in — and in Warhammer the choices are, for the most part, PvE (levelling) or PvP (levelling). The tradeskills are utter poo, so I’m not bothering with them. Tome unlocks are fun, but it really irks me that I have to do them in conjunction with an external site if I want to make any real progress, because there’s nothing in the ToK itself that’ll give me any kind of guidance, and running randomly about in the hope of filling ToK conditions isn’t my idea of fun — especially not at the glacial speed of movement in WAR, even mounted. I could get a mod that’ll tell me where to go for Tome unlocks but again, that seems to me to defeat one of the ToK’s main purposes, which is discovery. If I were an achiever and wanted the unlocks more than the process of getting them, that would be fine… but I’m only slightly more achiever than killer, and I’m neither very much. In my Bartle rating, “A” stands for slAcker.
(Here’s another, tangential irony: I’ve spent less time switching out of WoW than I would switching out of WAR if I decided to pursue Tome unlocks. Sure, I could use a browser to find everything in WoW — hell, I could get a mod that will not only tell me where to find quests, but will also tell me what order to do them in for maximum levelling efficiency (yawn) — but I haven’t. I remember enough about Azeroth to get around, and the rest is fun to rediscover. I have spent a lot of time reading up on talent builds, but I do that outside of my in-game time. That said, if I wanted to switch out of WoW I could, which wasn’t the case with WAR. Switch out too many times, especially to another hog program like Firefox, and a crash is almost guaranteed.)
Whether a game fills my expectations or not is down to me and not the game — but right now, WoW fills my expectations much more closely than WAR. Which is ironic, actually, because when I fired up the WoW trial period I was almost certain I would come away after a few days, admitting that WoW really wasn’t for me. It wasn’t last time around; but what has changed now isn’t so much the game as what I want from it. When I first played WoW I kept feeling as though I was being funneled into activities I didn’t enjoy, specifically dungeons (instances) and raiding, and while that’s true to an extent, it’s not the whole story. Four years later, I’ve come out of the closet and I admit that I don’t particularly like to do dungeons — for various reasons — and I have absolutely no interest in raiding… and I realise that that doesn’t necessarily make WoW useless to me. There’s plenty to do in Azeroth even if you never set foot in an instance. Having given up pressuring myself to adopt a playstyle I don’t like, I can stop and smell the do-what-you-want roses, and it’s fun.
Another subjective, intangible yet important aspect of MMOs and our own changing expectations. When I quit WoW in 2005, I was glad to move on to games that weren’t as bright — I think I may have used the word “gaudy” — and that didn’t have shoulder-pads you could brain a moose with. When I left EQ2, I mentioned wanting a game that wasn’t so “drab and brown” (which it seems EQ2 itself isn’t these days). What I want in terms of visuals and atmosphere isn’t a constant; in fact, there’s nothing like a bit of contrast to make one appreciate things, and I don’t mean just games.
Right now, WoW’s cartoonish style pleases me more than WAR’s grim darkness, and I think that may be partly why Wizard 101 appealed to me too. The Game I’m Testing I Can’t Name hasn’t been fired up in several weeks either, and I’m sure part of the reason for that is that it’s another beatiful but very grim and mostly dark-atmosphered game. I don’t want grim right now, I want silly reindeer mounts and mechanical greenches — and, sadly, in that respect the Keg End WAR event utterly failed to inspire me. I didn’t even log on to get at least one look at it. Dwarves, sure, but I don’t have a particular thing for them (I look more than enough like one in real life, minus the beard and male bits), and the same goes for beer. A giant backpack shaped like a keg? Meh, I guess. I’ll bet that event went down a lot better with the guys than it did with the gals.
* * *
All in all, it means I can approach WoW much more casually right now than I approach WAR, where I currently feel too pushed to do stuff I may not want to do, like level, group, do scenarios, do RvR — even if nobody or nothing is really pushing me aside from my own expectations. Basically the activities WAR offers aren’t activities I want to engage in at the moment, whereas the ones WoW offers are. I can fish. I can find pets. I can run about (at a decent speed, I might add, and ye gods that’s a pleasant change!) filling in blank parts of maps, getting flight routes, finding a nose-picking trainer… or whatever. And I can do all that in a performance package that feels responsive and fast, which right now is a real relief — it’s like the ending of a toothache you didn’t realise you had till it finally went away.
To think one single game will meet all of our expectations all of the time is naive. It may work for some, but it doesn’t for most, less so as we get older. I don’t eat the same thing every day of the week. I don’t read nothing but fantasy, or sci-fi, or crime novels, or indeed nothing but fiction. Why should we feel compelled to play the same game all the time, or to justify why we don’t want to? Well okay, some of us justify because it gives us something to write about, but we don’t have to.
Whatever you’re playing, I hope you’re enjoying it. If you’re not, you might want to take a look at that and maybe find something you do enjoy. Life’s too short to play at something that isn’t actually fun.
I’m not playing WAR right now so I probably don’t count as a WAR blogger, but I came across this in the usual meandering internet way and since many of you are WAR bloggers, I figured you should see it.
Syp wants YOU! (if you’re a Warhammer blogger)
Talents, one lot per character, and we all know I’m ascetic when it comes to character numbers *cough*. Talents, one lot per pet. Builds for PvE, PvP, raiding, picking your nose, and picking your friend’s nose. Locations for that vendor who sells 101 Ways To Cook Foozles — of which I remember rather more than I should after 3.5 years, but still not all of them (vendors, not the 100 ways to cook foozles). What pets are found where and what they now do, with the new petty goodness patch.
Argh! I never had to read this much in Warhammer!
And, mind you, I’m not rushing to Thottbot every time I have a quest, nor do I have a quest-o-matic helper. If I wanted to streamline & speed up leveling, that’d probably be another lot of reading to be done.
I mean seriously, who still reads in this day and age? (Yes, you’re all figments of my imagination. Behave, you at the back!) I haven’t read this much since I picked SWG up again to try out the new Beast Mastery stuff (another great idea, arm-chewing implementation/leveling grind). That said, since WoW doesn’t much mind being minimised, it’s not so difficult to pop out real quick and check whether it’s “Fist of Doom” or “Fist of Jelly” I want to spec in.
I was good at maths at school, at least right up until differential calculus, but I’ve never latched on to the numbers in games. Give me more than about 2 at once and my eyes glaze over and I’ll start thinking about my next harvesting trip. Reading combat logs? I’d rather level a pet in SWG. Working out the best gear for my char? Meh. If it looks good, that’s what counts, right? Which means I’ve researched builds I think will ultimately do what I want, I bookmarked them, and every time I level I check the little pictures and click the correct box. Like I said, it’s not that I don’t like numbers per se, but for some reason theorycrafting puts me to sleep. Hrmm… maybe I should try that instead of antihystamines at night.
The thing is, there are literally tens of thousands of WoW sites out there. Yikes! So far I’ve stuck to sites I know, because the WoW world is dangerous and some criminal mastermind is always lurking just around the corner to stick a keylogger on your machine and hijack all your phat stuffz — I know this because Blizzard mailed me in game to tell me about it. Yay paranoia! And if it’s not paranoia, ack! (That said — I’m still pretty sure 99% of “they hacked my account, waaah!” events have more to do with handing out your password to any reasonably curvaceous avatar/brother/college roomate than with deep computer haxage).
The point of this post? Just my amazement at the sheer e-tonnage of stuff out there for WoW. Though with eleventy-million-gajillion players, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.
— but you can keep the damned romance.
In any case, it’s not all she does. Mostly, Elegia stands by the mailbox in the Exodar, and occasionally she shuttles down to the auction chaps. Elegia, as it turned out, is my “auction char,” of which I’d never had one before, and I’m still a little surprised at myself. Normally I consider myself far, far above such petty concerns as making money in MMOs — or rather, I know I’m a crafter ho, and in most games crafter-hoeing isn’t profitable until you reach very high levels of it, if ever. It’s difficult to make a profit in games where — as always seems to be the case — raw materials sell for more than the finished product. In WoW, where they admitted that crafting was designed as a money sink (which, ironically, is one of the things that made me leave the first time), it’s totally obvious unless, like me, you spend 6 months pretending you don’t notice that you never have any money.
This time around I started WoW with a little more experience and revised expectations. I took gathering professions and told myself sternly that I would NOT craft. Okay, so that didn’t quite work out, but I’m mostly not crafting and I am selling a lot of what I harvest at auction. I’ve been surprised to find that almost everything sells — even low level stuff like light leather, peacebloom, and clam meat. This being the Winter Veil event, eggs have been selling like crazy, and when I finally got a clue and started making the gingerbread cookies themselves (needed for a quest), they sold like more crazy. Recipes from out of the way vendors? Sell like crazy. Pets that people can’t be arsed to travel to get for themselves? Sell like crazy, even with a several hundred percent markup on the base price. Everything sells like crazy. even with me keeping my prices lower than what Auctioneer reckons I should use, half the time (because making profit is one thing, but ripping people off — even of e-money — is another). I’m not the undercutting ho of the century, but I’d rather undercharge than overcharge. Whch I’m sure has nothing to do with me never getting rich in MMOs, so shaddap.
While the value of an Azerothian groat may not be what it was, in a couple of weeks and with really rather minimal effort, I am now sitting on a little over 100 gold, which is probably more than I ever had in my previous WoW stint except when I was saving for that 90g+ mount at 40. (Another good change, cheaper lower-level mounts. Yay!) Auctioneer has been very helpful in working out what to charge for what, but since I barely understand what it does, I’m sure I’m not using it very effectively. Still, it does take the drudgery out of price checking, and more to the point it has a much better memory than I do. Where my auctions haven’t sold it’s because it was something people didn’t want (so okay, Darkshore grouper isn’t a hot ticket pet-feeding item, so sue me) rather than because it was overpriced.
While I subscribe to the “you won’t take it with you, especially if it’s MMO money” idea, having a little cash does make a few things easier. The main thing is that I’m not worrying myself bald over how I’ll get Icewolfe’s mount when she turns 30, which she would already be if I weren’t such an altoholic slacker. Selling this stuff at auction is also, as it turns out, a much better outlet for my harvesting mania than selling stuff to vendors or trying to use it all myself past the point of its usefulness in leveling crafting. I’ll be interested to see how stuff sells when I make it into the next tier of goods, which would mean being less slackerish and levelling Icewolfe some more. Hopefully stuff will sell just as well, hopefully for a little more money, and Elegia will be dancing all the way to the bank.
Though my involvement in African (specifically Congolese) affairs is very distant, through the project requests and reports and stuff I help translate, I’m still made aware that being warm, fed, and having my own bed aren’t actually givens. This year I choose to be grateful, and pass it around.
First Christmas without my grandad, too. He shall be missed.
And if you still can’t muster up some cheer, surely you can’t resist Dean Martin.
If you’re one of those “Other” weirdos, you need to explain why.
Oh wait, I am one of those “other” weirdos! Back when I was a kid I spent most of my Christmases with my grandparents in France, and one of the things we had every Christmas eve was oysters. Yes, raw and squiggly and doused in lemon. I actually like oysters, though I’ll admit I don’t like to watch (or think about) the squiggliness, and oysters have always been associated with Christmas eve for me and not with, uh, more horizontal pursuits.
The main course part varied, as far as Christmas day goes. Some years turkey, some years ham, some years other stuff like the venison my cousin made which was the only time I’ve ever had it, and tasted yummy even if it did come from Bambi.